Beijing Discusses Redressing the Tiananmen Square Massacre

April 12, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Epoch Times Photo
Beijing students put flowers and wreaths in front of a portrait of former CCP leader and liberal reformer Hu Yaobang as thousands of students gather at the foot of the monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square during an unauthorized demonstration on April 19, 1989, to mourn Hu's death. The mourning of Hu is generally considered to be the event that precipitated the Tiananmen student movement. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images)

April 15 is the anniversary of Hu Yaobang’s death. Hu was the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader during the most important time for economic reform in the 1980s. Then-paramount leader Deng Xiaoping ousted Hu for being sympathetic to “bourgeois liberalism.” Hu’s death 23 years ago triggered the student protests, which were ended by the bloody crackdown on June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square.

April 5 is the Chinese Qingming Festival, the day for people to visit the graves of departed ones. For many years, people have been going to Hu Yaobang’s grave in Jiangxi Province on that day. What makes this year different is that the official Chinanews reported that many people have visited Hu’s grave to show their respect.

The report was widely reprinted by many Chinese media, including Xinhuanet, the website of the regime mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency. The report even mentioned that 300,000 people visited Hu’s grave in past years, including 80 CCP and state leaders and 200 ministry and provincial officials.

This report and its republication by many Chinese official media is the first sign confirming the widespread rumor from last month that Premier Wen Jiabao intends to push forward the re-evaluation of the student movement and subsequent massacre that occurred in Beijing 23 years ago.

On March 20, the Financial Times reported that, according to “people familiar with the matter,” Wen Jiabao raised the issue of the Tiananmen massacre three times on separate occasions during top-level, secret Party meetings. Each attempt was blocked by other leaders.

Bo Xilai, as the son of Bo Yibo, who pressed Deng Xiaoping to use the army to solve the challenge posed by the student protests, is one of the most vehement opponents of Wen’s proposal, according to the Financial Times. Many Chinese media outside China also reported Wen’s intention to rehabilitate the Tiananmen student movement.

Political Reform

Many Chinese believe that the first step for pushing forward political reform is removing the burden of the Tiananmen Square massacre. But actually, since political reform seems impossible, the rehabilitation of the Tiananmen issue is much easier and can be done separately from political reform.

The definition of political reform is not clear. The CCP National Congress has mentioned political reform many times. Actually, according to the Congress’s reports, political reform has never stopped. It just needs to be deepened.

In the Party’s dictionary, political reform must be under the leadership of the Party, following the line of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The purpose of reform is to enhance the Party’s leadership, not weaken it. Any real change, like freedom of press, freedom of assembly, or freedom of religious belief, is not allowed because any of these reforms would mean the end of Communist Party rule.

Then, how is rehabilitating the Tiananmen incident now possible? Those who committed the crime are no longer around. The Tiananmen massacre happened 23 years ago. Even at that time, the decision was made mainly by the elder communist leaders, who were mostly in their 80s at the time.

In the following generation’s leadership, former CCP head Jiang Zemin is the only one directly related to the incident. However, he was not the decision maker but the beneficiary. His opposition to the possible rehabilitation was that it would put into question his legality to be picked by Deng Xiaoping to replace the then-general secretary, Zhao Ziyang, who was ousted for refusing the military crackdown.

Of course, being against democracy and freedom is in Jiang’s nature. That’s why he shut down the World Economic Herald in Shanghai before the Tiananmen massacre occurred, at a time when most provincial leaders were still watching and waiting. That’s also the reason why Deng chose him.

Bo Xilai’s opposition to redressing the student movement is due to personal reasons because his father was involved in the decision to use the army against the students. This is not common with other leaders. Now, with Bo Xilai gone, this major obstacle has been removed.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.